More than 11 million Americans are at risk of losing their unemployment benefits in mid-March if Congress does not pass another relief package before then, according to a new report published this week.
About 11.4 million workers will be left with no income between March 14 and April 11 when two key federal jobless aid programs created a year ago under the CARES Act — and extended in the $900 billion relief package that Congress passed in December — expire, according to a study published Wednesday by the Century Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a program created to provide jobless benefits to gig workers and others typically not eligible for benefits, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which extends state unemployment benefits an extra 13 weeks, are both set to lapse in about one month.
Another program that is padding jobless aid by $300 per week will also end on March 14.
"This latest extension is winding down almost as soon as it started," the Century Foundation report said.
Up to 5 million Americans are expected to use up the extended benefits (PEUC), while 6.4 million will run out out of the PUA benefits over the span of several weeks. An estimated 4 million workers face a so-called "hard cliff," meaning the aid they are receiving will end abruptly on March 14. A little more than 7 million workers face a "soft cliff," and will see their benefits end at some point between March 14 and April 11. Even if they are eligible for additional weeks of jobless aid, they will not be able to receive benefits through PEUC or PUA.
Job losses remain elevated as COVID-19 cases across the country continue to trigger lockdown measures.
The longer that workers are unemployed, the more likely they are to draw down savings to make ends meet and increase borrowing. One study from 2010 indicates that 24% of workers facing prolonged unemployment had missed a mortgage or rent payment, while about 10% had declared personal bankruptcy.
Congressional Democrats are plowing ahead with passing a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, with the goal of passing the legislation by the end of the month and sending it to President Biden's desk before the March 14 cut-off.
A draft bill released by House Democrats this week includes a $1,400 stimulus check for Americans earning less than $75,000, expanded tax credits for children and low-income families and boosted unemployment benefits at $400 a week through the end of August.